John Edwards II

The Ilbert Courtenay Centrepiece

John Edwards II

The Ilbert Courtenay Centrepiece

An Exceptional George II Epergne Centrepiece
London, 1736
Maker’s mark of John Edwards

Length: 50 cm, 19 ¾ in.
Weight:  4,654 g, 149 oz. 12 dwt.

The shaped oval base with pierced border, on four leaf-capped scroll and shell feet, with central detachable oval bowl and two tiers of four detachable branches. The lower section with fixed oval dishes, the upper tier with detachable circular dishes, all with scalloped rim and interchangeable with spool shaped sockets and plain wax-pans. Each dish engraved with the family coat-of-arms, the wax-pans with a crest.
The arms are those of Ilbert impaling Courtenay for William Ilbert (1700-1751), of Bowringsleigh, co. Devon and his wife Bridget (1712-1790), daughter of Sir William Courtenay 2nd Bt. (1675-1735), of Powderham Castle, co. Devon, whom he married in 1734.

Very soon after acquiring Bowringsleigh the Ilberts set about make some enduring interior statements of their own. Two rooms at either end of the house would be crowned with decorative plasterwork ceilings representing ‘war’ and ‘peace’, the former featuring horsemen, assorted weaponry, and the Ilbert family crest. This last detail is repeated in the broken pediment of the doorcase to what would later become the dining room.

Most importantly in understanding this magnificent epergne, William Ilbert’s residential upgrade would be reinforced socially by the marriage of his son, William (II), who in 1734 gained the hand of Bridget, a daughter of Sir William Courtenay, 2nd Bt., (de jure 6th Earl of Devon) of Powderham Castle. ‘A lady of fine accomplishments and fortune,’ this union led to further refinement of the Ilbert household including this magnificent epergne.


William Ilbert (1700-1751), of Bowringsleigh, co. Devon.
A Gentleman [Cooling Galleries Ltd., 92 New Bond St.]; Christie's, London, 19 February 1936, lot 73 (£195 to Courtenay Ilbert).
Courtenay Ilbert (1888-1956), then by descent to,
Michael Inchbald (1920-2013), architect and interior designer, then by descent.

Son of John Edwards of Oswestry Shropshire innholder, apprenticed to Thomas Prichard of the Grocers' Company 9 March 1708 for seven years, but did not take up his freedom till 7 November 1723, when the entry is witnessed by John Bache Citizen and Goldsmith. Signatory as journeyman to the petition against assaying the work of foreigners not having served seven years apprenticeship, February 1716. Two marks (Sterling and New Standard) entered as largeworker, in partnership with George Pitches, 6 December 1723. Address: St. Swithin's Lane, near Lombard Street. Third and fourth marks alone, 27 April 1724, when described as 'Grocer'. Fifth mark, 9 August 1739, same address, where Heal records him till 1753. A sixth mark, entered in new position, also reads John Edward, St. Swithin's Lane, 1 November 1753, but for the first time the signature of the Christian name reads John as against Jn for the previous entries. On the other hand the neat handwriting appears the same. We must, however, allow the possibility that this mark is that of a son. Edwards is probably the - Edwards, Subordinate Goldsmith to the King, who appears in the Jewel Office Records from 1723-1743 (Major General H.W.D. Sitwell, 'The Jewel Office and the Royal Goldsmiths', Arch Journal CXVII, p.154-55). John, son of John and Catherine Healy, lodger at Mr.Edwards, silversmith in the parish of St. Mary Woolnoth, was baptized in the same church, 9 February 1745, and Sarah and Dinah, twin daughters of Stephen and Sarah Willson, lodgers at Mr Edwards, the silversmith, baptized 27 May 1747, at the same.

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John Edwards II